Georgia D., Bachelor of Business
SGH Warsaw School of Economics, Poland (Semester 2, 2018)
For a very long time, I was conflicted on where I should travel for my exchange experience. The only thing that I knew for sure was that I wanted to take a hold of this opportunity to make my International Business degree truly “international”. My search led me to look at nearly every university and location on offer, but after attending a presentation from a Polish exchange student at QUT (one of many organised through the Exchange Office), I knew it was the place for me.
Arriving in Warsaw, I realised early on just how big of a cultural divide there is between Poland and Australia – and I loved every minute of it. Sure, sorting out some of the initial paperwork with my landlord and government departments was made more difficult due to barriers of language/culture, but once I was settled in the city, I instantly thought of it as a second home.
I chose to rent a room on a street between the Ochota and Śródmieście districts – both quite central areas of the city that ended up being a perfect location for me as a student at SGH (Warsaw School of Economics). My experience in renting a room within a private apartment was wonderful, as I shared it with 3 other students, but the university offers dorm accommodation as well (which was also a popular option amongst exchange students). The public transport in Warsaw is great (trams, buses and Metro), and it took me less than 10mins to get to the SGH main building from my apartment using the tram system.
SGH provided a very different university experience for me, particularly evident in a reduced use of online systems and technology within lectures. I was enrolled in 7 units (as most units are worth about half the credit points of a QUT unit), and I took the opportunity to study a number of units that related to Poland and Eastern Europe, and its economic/political relations with/within the EU. It was a great opportunity as an Australian student to apply what I’ve learnt within my Business degree to an area of the world that I was quite unfamiliar with.
The campus is split over a couple of buildings, all within walking distance of each other, very close to Central Warsaw and serviced by buses, trams and a Metro line. The main building was quite beautiful, particularly the grand ceiling and university library, and most of my classes took place here. The exchange office ran a buddy program with current Polish students at SGH, which was definitely helpful for me initially, and my “buddy” and I became great friends during my time in Warsaw. She was able to show me a number of great places to eat and hang out close to the university, which was great because whilst living in Poland, that was actually something I could afford as a student.
Cost of living in Warsaw is SUPER affordable, and left room for me to spend more on travel and experiences with friends. A lot of local attractions (particularly museums) are free of charge on certain days of the week too, so I got to see and learn a lot without spending a ton of money. As a student all transport is reduced by 50%, and because this included intercity travel, I took a couple of trips to Krakow during my time here.
The food in Poland is also very good, and especially because I was there over the winter, I took advantage of some of the more ‘hearty’ dishes. In Warsaw, there has been a revival of “bary mlecnze” (milk bars) – cafeteria style eateries that were quite prominent in Poland’s communist era – that serve cheap traditional Polish dishes, and I could always get a full meal for under $5. The nightlife is obviously a little busier during the summer months, but there were still some great areas to explore with friends close to campus and city centre, where prices were also super reasonable.
I also found it very interesting to spend my exchange in a city with such an incredible history, as they really make an effort to preserve the memory of events that shaped the area, particularly within the WW2 era. Whilst I was there the country was celebrating 100 years of independence, and it was awesome to see how much pride the Polish people had for their country and its difficult past. I was constantly discovering new things about the city of Warsaw over the entire time I lived there, and I probably only scraped the surface.
I could talk about the positives of an exchange to Warsaw forever, and that’s something that really surprised me: just how much I loved my time there. Before going along to that presentation, I had not seriously considered Poland because I had never really heard much about it as a travel/study destination, and now I can’t understand why, because it’s brilliant. As a student, Warsaw is: cheap, packed with history, well connected by public transport, culturally rich and located very conveniently for travels within Europe during holidays or weekends. To anyone thinking of an exchange in Poland, I would definitely recommend giving it some serious thought. Whilst it might not be the most popular or conventionally easy, in my opinion it is definitely worth it!! I cannot wait to return to Warsaw again, and explore even more of Poland in the future.